"Let the fun happen" was our guide for this wonderful week of June. Blitz Bikes Beer, formerly known as Blitz The Barrel is an invitational event in Bend, Oregon. The concept is pretty easy to understand : ride your mountain bike, have fun, drink beer and party hearty. So it’s hard to say no when Erik Eastland who organizes the event ask you to join. We don’t do things half way at the Athletic, so we sent what I could call a shredder delegation from our Portland office. Because Bend is cool, but so is Portland. Abby Watson and myself were packed and ready to go.
In the history of Abby and I going to Blitz, it has not always been a success. I mean, it involved some crashing either before or during. So this year I was pumped and to secure the fun, ask Abby Watson to organize it.
This is how Abby describes it to me, and I’m going to add some side notes:
JK: What is The Blitz?
AW: My best description is that it’s a party organized around an XC Super D. It’s the perfect blend of fun and serious racing (there’s $20,000 in prize money up for grabs after all!).
As you know, we were there all for money.
The Blitz is an invitational with a small but diverse roster drawn mostly from awe-inspiring professionals and local shredders. Then there’s me; I am neither professional nor a Bend local and I went into the event feeling a little out of my league. I wasn’t wrong.
Wow wow easy Abby. I think you are awesome, also fast. Let’s say we are pro in spirit. We did check out our tire pressure, which is pretty pro to me.
The women in this race were so strong — both physically and technically — that I thought the race might be discouraging, but I’ve never felt more camaraderie. From nervously scoping out the big air jump the day before, to chugging beers and arm wrestling after turning ourselves inside out on the course, this talented group of women was fun.
----- And the dudes are pretty ok too. Carl Decker? Todd Wells? Adam Craig. Never heard of them? Fair enough. Me neither. Well, the dude Adam might answer to the nickname of Mister Tank Top. Please if you see him at those EWS, high five him, call him TankTop. He likes embrocation too. It’s like, his favorite thing in the universe. He is looking for a embro sponsor, by the way.
I don’t really want to talk just about the riding, but, it is awesome, it’s Bend. Yes, the city is surrounded by wonderful trails systems and yes, we didn’t really stop riding for 4 days. Exepected, for the arm wrestling contest. Which was just after the race, also because after the finish line you are still on the clock until you drink a beer, so it was the beer, then the consequence of the beer after hammering for more than an hour by 90 degrees outside on MTB trials, god damned that was fun, then the armwrestling contest, which I was like fuckthat but then I went into ½ final just because I have no self control.
Yes, we did that, dirty girls. What’s for reversible jersey otherwise? Also, Basketball jerseys are great for mountain biking. Don’t even bother yourself to go shopping in a bikeshop for a jersey.
Abby on Arm Wrestling: I was skeptical. I knew I’d be bad, I’m not one for antics, and I don’t enjoy being on stage. So, after brushing the dust off my legs and flipped my reversible basketball jersey inside out, I went for it.
I hopped on stage at sunset to embarrass myself along with the rest of the women. It was. awesome. The ridiculousness of cyclists trying to arm wrestle, coupled with post race adrenaline and beers that go straight to your head, made for a winning combination for participants and spectators alike. I was out in the first round, but that didn’t matter. I cheered for everyone so loudly that I woke up with a sore throat the next day. Totally worth it. Carolynn Romaine won, defeating the previously unstoppable Brooke Blackwelder. It was Carolynn who I was up against in my first and final round, so that defeat was really all the more justified.
So, I did get kicked out by Brooke in ½ final which in my racer mind mean I will have finish either 3rd or 4rd. Hey! Not that bad. Next year, I’m coming back for the win. I went back to Portland and sign up in a crossfit gym and went buy a protein shaker for protein powder, because muscle.
End of the story.
So here we are with Abby drunk, with both side of our jersey dirty at this point, and a arm which fell like dislocated, talking of how awesome that was. Not to mention we got Cody Kaiser (who's shop Kinetic Cycles just became an Athletic dealer!) and Adam Craig wearing the Zig Zag Superhero Blue and the Galaxie Gray when they were on the stage.
Abby on Big Air: This was the element of the race that I had been dwelling on in the weeks leading up to the race. I’m used to jumping tabletops, but have always avoided anything with a drop or gap for fear of failure. So, committing to hit this jump surrounded by a crowd and cameras at Tetherow golf course was a feat for me. At practice the day before, I watched about a dozen people of varying skill ride off a drop and hit the jump with zero problem and started to gain confidence. Then Tina rode it, and she’s a cyclist that I can relate to. She got into coach mode, looked me in the eye, told me sternly that I could do it, and suggested that I follow another rider off the jump so I could match their speed. I tried, and Tina was right; I could do it!
Not to mention that Tina is always right. Tina Brubaker is a figure and an inspiration for the cyclist women in Oregon and that night she have get around 6 girls, including myself to go over the big air. Thanks Tina.
Despite landing the jump cleanly multiple times during practice, I was still nervous that some factor like wind would lead to an embarrassing crash during the race. Worrying, however irrational, is part of the process for me. When I finally hit the jump during Blitz it couldn’t have been smoother, and my bike made the landing all the easier. I was elated, but still had a few physically challenging miles to ride and a beer to chug. Brooke Blackwelder won the big air, and I think she’s won this prime for the past few years. My money was on one of the Gehrig twins who race EWS and made the trip to Bend from Switzerland.
To finish, as this is a post about what we didn’t win at the Blitz, we did not win the prize money for the fastest on the pavement, yes, it’s a thing:
Abby on the Fastest on Pavement Prime: Fast? There was no fast for me. I was not in shape, and felt the effects of my lack of fitness early on. I can ride all day, but I don’t have that high-end fitness to go fast right now. Though the efforts felt fun early in the 18-mile race, I could only hold a hard effort for about 2 minutes by the halfway mark. So, by the time I got to the Fastest on Pavement prime in the final miles of the race, I wasn’t going all that fast. However, Tina managed to clock an impressive 38 mph on her MTB if my memory serves me correct to win this one. Go Tina!
You might understand better that final part, and why we had so much fun riding in Bend: Abby ride a sweet Trek Remedy and I ride an Ibis Mojo HDR. Our tires choice are more oriented to riding around Mt. Hood, which is a mountain, with rocks and roots. So let say that our bikes were not ready tuned for that kind of race, and yes, racing a 30 pounds MTB at a cross country race kind of sucka. But when it came to hit the jump line it’s way more fun, and it’s what we are going for this day.
Although, I have to say, I have so much fun racing a 30 pounds bike. Because it have a nice kick on every bump and jump and surprisingly those bikes can climb if you put all the watts you will have that month in your pedals strokes. Yes, I wanted vomit few times, but I also went to THE ZONE, that's when you are just driving your bike and all your mind becomes clear and quiet.
I guess Abby and I enjoy mostly the process of racing and being fit way more than the actually finish line moment. Because when you cross the line, you have to get back to work! Ah! See you next year suckas!